Outlining a Career Path for Your Team

Outlining a Career Path for Your Team

Written by Kevin Martlage

I ran across a Chinese proverb the other day that made me think about the importance of creating a nurturing and supportive work environment for your team. An environment that allows them to not only be successful but helps them intentionally and transparently identify their professional career goals while having the proper support to obtain them. The Chinese Proverb goes like this, 

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” 

You may be asking yourself, what does that have to do with a supportive work environment and specifically why having a career path for your team is important? The answer to that lies within the true meaning, in my opinion, of this proverb and how you can support your team through career development.

As professionals in the tree care industry, we are certainly able to outline and discuss the importance of a healthy green infrastructure and specifically the role a healthy canopy and each tree within that canopy. Similarly, we also know the various stages of how a tree grows and develops over time. Everything from how the seed is planted and germinates below ground with the radicle (primary root) and the plumule emerging from that seed to the seedling stage and sapling stage which leads to the Heartwood, Xylem, Phloem, outer bark, and eventually each individual branch and leaf. Without each of those stages developing in a specific order, a tree would not exist and therefore would not be a sustainable part of the ecosystem and canopy. How a tree is planted, nurtured, and developed over time is important to how that tree ultimately survives and becomes an integral part of the ecosystem which is so very important to all of us. 

With that in mind, I challenge you to think of your organization and your team as a tree that needs to be planted, nurtured, and grown over time. Specifically, think of each of your employees as an integral part of your organizational ‘canopy’ which requires the various ‘trees’, your employees, to be highly functioning and productive as you provide your service to the ‘ecosystem’ of the industry. Without a strong workforce, who is highly motivated, supported, safe, trustworthy, and strategic you will find your overall long term sustainable success to be far more challenging than it should be. A specific and detailed career path can help to attract higher quality employees, keep your current employees engaged, and set your organization apart from the competition as a highly supportive place of business that employees want to work for. 

Career paths can take many different forms regarding what they provide your employees. The number one goal in creating a career path is that it is aligned with the goals of your organization while allowing for the individual and collective growth and development of your team. 


When beginning to develop your employee career path, it is important to keep the following in mind:

  • What do your employees want and need from their careers (i.e., goals and desires)?
  • What can the workforce provide to your organization to be successful (i.e., needed skills)?
  • Can the developed career path be easily supported by you and your leadership team?
  • How will it be communicated to the team and kept alive once in place?

Once you have strategically determined the answers above, it is time to develop the career path for your employees and your organization. To do this, I challenge you to think about the developmental stages of a tree once again. The career path should start from the seed being planted (the hiring of a new employee) to the ‘leaves’ that are produced as that employee continues to grow within your organization. 

An example of a career path might be the following:

  • Planting the seed: Day 1
    • New Employee is hired
  • Seed Germination : Week 1
    • Radicle forms (downward) 
      • On-boarding – new hire paperwork
    • Plumule forms (towards surface)
      • On-boarding – organizational background 
      • On-boarding – team introductions
  • Seedling Stage: First 30 days 
    • Seedling forms
      • Specific on-the-job training identified
      • Specific on-the-job training provided
  • Sapling Stage: First 3 months
    • Root development
      • Mentor identified and introduced 
    • Trunk development
      • Bi-weekly mentor/supervisor meetings 
      • On the job training continues
  • Growth Stage: 2-6 months
    • Heartwood development
      • Identify and document career goals 
    • Xylem, Cambium, Phloem
      • Create a career development action plan  
    • Outer Bark development
      • Review progress to date
      • Identify opportunities for additional training
  • Nurturing Stage: 6 months +
    • Watering
      • Conduct quarterly performance meetings
    • Pruning
      • Review career action plan annually and update
      • Provide opportunities for outside certification(s)
      • Provide opportunities for external training
    • Transplanting (as needed)
      • Support internal career advancement
      • Support external career advancement

The development, communication, and support of a detailed career path for your employees is equally important to your organization’s success as your strategic plan, financial maintenance, and client acquisition. In fact, I would argue that it might be even more important as you continue to grow your organization. The proper on boarding, development, support, and nurturing of your employees will enhance your overall team culture while ensuring that your team is firmly planted in your organization for many years to come. The time to develop that career path is now. This will allow you to look back in 20 years as you enjoy the benefits of a healthy team that has helped grow your organization and provide a valuable service to your clients and the industry. 

If you struggle with the hiring process, contact an ArboRisk team member today! Our Thrive Risk Management Hiring & Recruiting Package and team of experts will help you one-on-one to create the career path that works for your organization.

5 Secrets to Better Employees

5 Secrets to Better Employees

Written by Joseph Toppi

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” – Richard Branson 

Want better employees? Of course you do! Nearly every company – no matter what the industry they are in – is searching for better employees to add to their team, to grow and sustain their company. They seem to never be able to find employees that can last, so they end up in this constant state of churn. 

Why? I think there are many reasons, but the underlying issue to all of the reasons is the employer. It is the hiring process, more specifically, the way the employer manages the hiring process when looking for employees. The system of hiring on skill and experience, then throwing monetary incentives to keep them is an archaic way that has lost its effectiveness some time ago. That is a system that has been proven to be nothing more than costly! 

These 5 secrets saved my companies from utter employee disaster, and allowed me to start making better employee choices and retain them longer. 

#1. Hire Based On Core Values 

In 2013, I went through a major hiring time. I hired around 50 men and women, and only retained three or four. At that time, I didn’t know why I was having so much trouble. I was hiring the most skilled, paying them above normal, and treated them very well. Still, they were not performing, and I was losing money through hiring, training, poor workmanship, and replacing. 

As I sat down to reflect on what was going on, I realized I was missing the important things I should have been hiring on – core values. 

I was trying to hire based on skill in a time when all the skilled employees were already hired. The way I was filtering my potential hires was the issue. I was looking for skill, but putting no weight on honesty, reliable, integrity, etc. If you start your hiring process by looking for those that possess the core values of your company, you can train the skill. When hiring, we want to train them in our company’s way, anyway, so why hire based on something you are going to change in them? 


#2. Set Clear Expectations 

When employers fail to set clear expectations of their employees from day one, the employer is setting the employee up to fail.

Too many times, the employers will give a rough outline of what the company does, and sometimes even varying deadlines, but nothing that the employee can hold themselves accountable to. Nothing the employee can be weighed against to determine if they are doing a good job or not. The worst part is, the employer ends up getting frustrated and angry at the employee, because they are not living up to the expectations the employer has!

When hiring your employees, prepare a clear set of company rules and behavioral expectations, and go over them with the new employee on Day One. As well, at the start of any tasks or projects, make sure you have production, quality, and timeline expectations set. Employees prefer this, as it provides them structure and a way to know if they are doing a good job or not. 


#3. Be Quick To Invest In Your Employees 

Many times, employers are afraid to invest in developing their employees because of fear. Fear that the employees will leave them for another company. Fear that employees will leave and start their own company. Just a fear that they will waste their money. This holds so many companies back from having absolutely exceptional employees, and holds so many employees back from being truly invested and caring about the company. 

When a company invests in their employees, the employees feel like they are valued, and in turn the employees will naturally want to work harder for that company. It is important to invest in training – company specific training, industry training, and personal development. Training employees goes a long way in their abilities on and off the job site.The opposite is also true – when a company refuses to invest in their employees, the employees feel unvalued, and this is when trouble starts. 

Finally, trust in your employees. Ever feel like all you are doing is putting out fires, and most of them are little things that you think your employees are more than capable of handling? They probably are, but somewhere down the line, you showed them a lack of trust and it is coming to a head. Quit being the firefighter, and start being the fire chief! 

Not investing into employees because of the fear of losing them holds so many companies back from having absolutely exceptional employees, and holds so many employees back from being truly invested and caring about the company.


#4. Recognize & Praise 

Why is it that employers think that money is ALL that is important to employees? I have heard employers complain so many times how they were overpaying an employee and gave them so many bonuses and benefits, and the employee still moved on. They are confused as to why. When I ask how they treated the employee, they would answer in a monetary way – “I treated them good, I paid them well.” 

What I have found is that employees – people – just want to feel appreciated. They want recognition and praise for the things they do and accomplish. Too many times, though, employers don’t recognize and praise, but rather criticize and belittle. 

Start recognizing your employees – not with money, but recognize the things they do well – recognize their value, recognize their accomplishments (both at work and personally)! Do the little things – parties, BBQ, lunch, in-house awards. Praise should be given quickly after an accomplishment, it should be personal, outlined in detail, and relevant at the time.


#5. Be Quick To Nurture, Not Fire 

How many times have you fired someone without giving them the opportunity to correct their attitude, behavior, or whatever it was that caused you to fire them in the first place? As well, how many times have you fired someone without at least showing them what it was that went wrong, and invested a bit of time with them to show them the right way?

Be quick to invest the time and energy into building up your employees. Don’t get me wrong, there are those people that you hire foolishly, and you know that no matter what you do, they are still going to be trouble. With the rest, you have the opportunity to not fire them, but nurture them into the best version of themselves. 


Hiring the right way is just as important as hiring the right person. As an employer, you are responsible for the people you hire, the culture you create, and the community they are all a part of. When you hire and maintain employees as discussed above, you will create employees that will work for you, your vision, and towards your mission. If you struggle with the hiring process, contact an ArboRisk team member today! Our Thrive Risk Management Hiring & Recruiting Package can help address your hiring woes and take your company to new heights!

Who Is Your Recruiting Champion?

Who Is Your Recruiting Champion?

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Almost every tree service owner has a difficult time finding new employees, yet most don’t actually do anything to improve their recruiting situation. But that’s not because they are lazy, no, it’s quite the opposite, something always comes up that takes the owner’s time and attention away from recruiting efforts. Because of this, every tree care company needs to designate a Recruiting Champion within their organization. 

What is a Recruiting Champion? This is the person who takes responsibility for recruiting new employees to your company. They have the authority and dedicated budget to spend a certain amount of their time on recruiting activities. This position can be filled by anyone within the organization, however for the position to be successful there has to be clear expectations of what the specific roles that the Recruiting Champion must fulfill. 

There are three main roles the Recruiting Champion must accomplish within your tree care company. 

  1. Understands the staffing needs – The Recruiting Champion must be involved in strategic planning of the company to understand where the company is headed and therefore anticipate what the staffing needs will be in the future. Planning for the upcoming busy season is the most immediate need that the Recruiting Champion should consider. How many people do we need in the next 6 months to hit our growth goals? You also should paint a broader picture for the Recruiting Champion as to what the company will look like in 3 – 5 years so they can help with the potential development of current employees or the need to hire for different skill sets in the future. 
  2. Creates and executes the recruitment strategy – Creating a recruitment strategy consists of identifying what your target employee looks like (the profile of characteristics, not physical looks) and learning where they interact so you can be present and offer career opportunities to them. Developing a visual Career Path is an essential part of the recruitment strategy so when you do get an interested employee you can show them how they are able to have a lengthy career within your organization. The Recruiting Champion is also responsible for attending the career fairs and hiring events that were identified in the strategy.
  3. Screens and helps on interviews – The Recruiting Champion should not be responsible for all of the hiring activities, but they should be involved in the screening and initial interviews for potential employees. This will help them gain a better understanding of the recruiting efforts that they have embarked upon and how they can adjust the strategy to improve their results. You have to be careful of bias that the Recruiting Champion may impose upon their preferred candidates and therefore be part of the hiring team and not the only one performing the hiring process. 

Remember that recruiting activities do not produce immediate results, however, we all know what you’ll get if you don’t start doing it. After you identify a Recruiting Champion within your company, start by dedicating just 5% of their time to recruiting activities. That equates to ½ of a day for every two weeks worked. Trust me, even that small amount of time will return great dividends in your recruiting efforts. 

If you are struggling with recruiting new employees and want help creating a Recruiting Champion within your company, sign up for our Thrive Hiring & Recruiting package today or contact an ArboRisk team member to learn more!

Growing Your Human Resource Assets

Growing Your Human Resource Assets 

Written by Jim Skiera

The most common growth limitation I hear from business owners is the difficulty they have recruiting new employees. Our tree care business clients, in general, have a backlog of work but are having difficulty finding enough skilled labor to meet the client’s need. As a result, most tree care companies are more likely competing for employees, (human resource assets), more than competing for work. To make recruiting even more difficult this challenge exists for most businesses. The most common sign seen today is “Now Hiring”.  

To be competitive in this tough labor market it is critical to view employees as assets. To retain and develop employees for the long term, offer to help them build a career rather than a job. When you have a team of employees that feel they are part of your business growth plan, you are building the best recruiting tool available. Set aside time to visit with each employee to discuss their career goals and help them develop a plan to achieve the goals.

The process should include identifying and developing new leaders. New leaders may be needed to replace someone retiring, a person who has been promoted, to fill a vacancy caused by turnover and or to fill a new leadership role created to expand the company. It’s a risk management strategy that increases the availability of prepared and qualified people as the business grows, adds new employees, new services and or loses a key employee. It’s also one of the best ways to retain, inspire and reward employees. Happy employees are great recruiters. 

No matter the size of your company, this activity starts at the top. Include employees in your succession planning discussions. Leadership is a learned skilled, preparing your people to lead is one of your most important duties. One of the most important skills to develop as a leader is your ability to listen. Model that skill and it will become part of your company culture.

Here are a series of steps to consider at least once a year to help you include employee development in succession planning to grow your business and human resource asset base. 

  • Identify critical positions in the company which require highly capable employees. If you are looking to expand include critical positions needed for that expansion.
  • Identify the most competent person for each specific critical position and what the consequence would be if that person were to leave, be promoted, and or become temporarily unavailable.
  • Identify people in the organization that are likely candidates to advance into those critical positions when the time comes. These transitions can be planned in the case of a promotion, or in the case of an emergency the company is prepared to minimize the impact.
  • Identify success profiles for all critical positions. If you are on top of this there should be job descriptions to review for this information. If not, that is a good first step to developing a success profile.
  • Create development plans for successors to ensure they are ready to assume future roles.
  • Develop employee development plans to address the gaps. Budget time and resources for leadership training.

Begin by getting your key players involved to help with identifying critical positions and highly capable people. At first people that haven’t been included in this type of discussion in the past may be threatened by the concept, it may appear you are getting ready to replace them. Communication needs to be handled well and if it is, you will find it is something that is welcomed. The process allows people to see benefits and opportunities that they might not have seen before, for themselves, others and the company. In time it will be a part of your culture and every employee will become a recruiter.

If you need additional help growing your human resource assets, check out ArboRisk’s Thrive Leadership Development Package! Our experts will work with your leaders one-on-one to build their leadership skills, thereby increasing team loyalty, efficiency, and profitability.

Developing Leaders Using Flashlights and Mirrors

Developing Leaders Using Flashlights and Mirrors

Written by Kevin Martlage

As a tree care business owner, you are faced with numerous decisions and issues surrounding your organization and team on a constant basis. How you approach those things ultimately rests on the shoulders of you as the leader of your company. While we all have various levels of success and issues we are dealing with, the backbone of any organization is the team that leads and runs the business. Certainly, our customers, vendors, suppliers, and equipment are all important, but without an effective team to take care of those things you are simply another tree care company searching for that next tree to prune. 

If I were to ask you how are you intentionally developing your current and future leaders what would you say? Could you honestly answer that question or does the typical business day cause too many hurdles and time constraints to effectively develop the team around you? If you are developing your team, great!! What then specifically are you doing to ensure that your team has all the tools and resources necessary to be successful, productive, and most importantly happy? Do they know what good looks like and how they can positively impact the organization daily? Those are all questions that are important to think about as you advance your organization and team with effective and intentional leadership development. 

I work with individuals and teams daily helping them identify what is “being left on the table” in terms of their overall strategy, teamwork, operational efficiency, and productivity. While my work with those clients is extremely fulfilling, it is the ability to help individuals look internally to understand themselves and how they can continue to impact their organization that is the most rewarding as a coach. This is where the concept of ‘Flashlights and Mirrors’ becomes relevant.  

That phrase, ‘Flashlights and Mirrors’ was introduced to me by my father who has spent a vast majority of his life crafting various workshops and trainings to help people, and teams, realize their full potential. The concept is one that I use with my clients and is something that I think can be very impactful if a leader fully embraces it as they develop their team to make a positive impact on the tree care industry.  

The concept is simple. As a leader, it is your responsibility to ensure that those on your team have not only the resources and understanding necessary to complete their job responsibilities, but also your support to reach their full potential.  The ‘flashlight’ in this equation is used to help “shine the light” on those areas that are important to them. The ‘mirror’ is then used to help them look internally to understand how they are impacting the organization, the team, and their professional development on a consistent basis. Your responsibility as a coach committed to transparent communication and support, is to help facilitate those conversations with your team. 

There are a variety of ways to use the ‘flashlight’ concept with your team when it comes to their development. However, the thing that turns it on the brightest is the question, “How can I help?” Not only does this open the discussion for further discovery, but it also helps to build trust which is super important as you develop your current and future leaders. Granted the responses can vary and have a lot of different outcomes, but as a leader it is your responsibility to take their response and help shine that flashlight a little brighter so you can both uncover what it is that they desire, need, and are passionate about. 

Some suggested questions you can use to help shine that flashlight are:

  • How can I help?
  • What support can I provide to help enhance your ability to lead your team or to do your job?
  • Are there any areas of your responsibilities that you feel you could use some additional training?
  • What are your career goals within this company and outside of this company?
  • Are you happy with the responsibilities you currently have?
  • Are there areas of the business that you wish you had more interaction or responsibility for?
  • What are you passionate about within this company? 
  • What are you passionate about outside this company? 

The list can go on and on. However, as a leader committed to developing your team, it helps to understand what it is that they are passionate about, want to achieve, are having difficulty with, or need help with. Once you begin to understand those areas, you can work with them to develop an action plan around how to alleviate those issues and achieve those goals. This then becomes their developmental plan which can be used as you continue to meet with them and develop them for the next step in their career.


The concept of using ‘mirrors’ is a bit different, but equally important. This is where, as a leader, you help them look internally regarding their own performance within the organization. This part of the equation can be as detailed or simple as your organization allows. However, the most important thing to remember is that the ‘mirror’ only shows facts and does not reflect emotion. 

The ‘mirror’ is used to help you have those transparent and important conversations with your employees that provide specific details regarding their performance and interactions as a member of the team. It is also meant to help you provide them with some invaluable insight into how they interact with others, support others, and impact the team and organization. 

To build your mirror you must first determine what “good” looks like for that individual and your organization. When we say “good” this includes developing and providing specifics about the culture of your organization, metrics you would like them to achieve, acceptable interactions and communication with others, and most importantly their ability to understand what is expected of them on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis. Once developed and agreed to, this then becomes the ‘mirror’ that you consistently use to help them look at those things. By consistently, transparently, and intentionally providing them feedback regarding their performance in those areas, you are helping them to “look in the mirror” to remind themselves of what good looks like and how they are positively and negatively impacting those things. This will help continue to develop them personally as they work to achieve those goals and continue to positively impact the organization by looking inward first. 

The concept of “flashlights and mirrors” is simply a guide to how you can provide invaluable insight and development opportunities for your staff. The key to any of this is that you must be consistent with your development conversations while you build a trusting and effective business relationship with your team. If you would like to learn more about intentional leadership development, I would encourage you to look at the THRIVE program, and specifically the Leadership Development Package, for more details. 

Recruit with Intent – Organizations

Recruit with Intent – Organizations

Since recruiting new employees to your company is typically one of the hardest parts about owning a tree care company, why not try to make that easier? There are so many creative ideas to recruit new employees that one article can not simply cover them all so I want to just focus on one very powerful way; intentionally recruiting within organizations

What I mean by organizations, are the membership based groups that are well established and have a mission to help their members. Your local ISA chapter, a military veteran organization, a local chamber of commerce are all examples of established organizations whose goal is to serve their members. 

Recruiting within organizations does not happen immediately, but when done correctly, will create a long pipeline of future employees for your company. To be successful, you need to create a positive relationship between your company and the organization. Volunteering your time and talents for the organization is the quickest way to provide value and begin to create a great relationship that will turn into a recruiting hot spot for you. 

Now with so many great organizations out there, how do you choose which one to invest in to see the best results? Below are the four areas that you should look at when assessing each organization that you are contemplating working with. 

          Members – You need to get a feel of what their membership demographic consists of. How many total members are there? What are the ages of the members? Does the organization know what the positions or titles of their members are? All of these questions will help you understand if your ideal employee is a part of this organization or not. 

          Events – The best way to meet a potential new hire may be in person, however, online events still can be valuable for recruiting. So ask the organizations what they have for events.  Are there any Job Fairs or specific hiring events? If so, how many potential employees come to them? How about informal networking events? What about any multi-day conferences? Think about creative ways you can get your company’s name and message out in front of prospective employees at the event. 

          Marketing – Learn how the organization communicates with its members. Gain an understanding by simply asking the organization if they send out a newsletter or email blast? Would you be able to write an article within their newsletter so prospective employees begin to see your name? Are there any sponsorship or advertising opportunities that you could engage in? The more your personal name and business name get promoted by the organization, the better reputation and more likely it is that new employees will come to you for their next job. 

     Leadership – Understanding who the centers of influence are within each organization is a critical task to choosing which organization to partner with. This isn’t necessarily apparent from looking at an organization’s website, so you’ll have to do some digging to find this out. Is there an Executive Director who is a full time position? If so, get to know them personally. Are there long-standing Board members or very influential members who provide advice and direction for the organization? Who is in charge of the events? Each of these questions will help identify who are the movers and shakers within the organization and are the ones you need to connect with to get in front of more new hires. 

Learning about these four areas for each organization will help determine which one you should focus on for recruiting efforts. As you know, a solid recruiting plan takes effort to build deep relationships, so do not try to get involved with too many organizations.

If you would like more help with Hiring & Recruiting for your tree care company, please contact ArboRisk today!

Written by: Eric Petersen